New Martinsville City Council debates appointing vs. electing officials

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NEW MARTINSVILLE, W.Va. (WTRF) – Elected or appointed, it’s the big question for New Martinsville City Council. 

Officials are considering whether or not three elected positions; street commissioner, city recorder and chief of police, should instead be appointed by council. 

City Council discussed that issue at an informational meeting Monday night but did not take any action.

“Now I’ve talked to some of my constituents and I almost have 100% tell me they do not want to give up their right to vote,” said Iris Isaacs, who represents Ward 6 on City Council. “That’s who I represent. I don’t represent any of these guys. I represent the sixth ward of New Martinsville.”

“Just 30 minutes before this meeting took up, was called to order, was the first citizen that said that they felt that appointing or hiring, doing away with elected was the best,” added Councilman Joel Potts, who represents Ward 5.

The three positions; street commissioner, city recorder, and chief of police, weren’t chosen by council to be at the center of this discussion.

They’re listed in the city’s charter as elected positions. 

“The forefathers are the ones that set this up and we’ve all asked that question and I don’t think anyone has a real firm feel of why it’s done this way,” explained Mayor Steven Bohrer. “As the lawyer said, we have the water and sewer board and the superintendent there is appointed. The electric department supervisor is appointed and parks and recreation is appointed.”

City officials also details potential pros and cons to appointing these three positions. They include having more candidates because not everyone will run in an election, more control for City Council over that person’s job description, job security for the appointed and continuity because people would ideally stay in the position until they retire or are let go.

Although it was meant to be just an informative meeting, there was some heated debate between members of council and Police Chief Tim Cecil bringing up past issues.

“I have been on board with every employee since I’ve been here. I have no agenda,” said Councilman Steven Pallisco, representing Ward 4.

Chief Cecil said he feels council bringing up this issue could be a personal attack.

“In 2003 I was a carbon setter at Ormet,” he explained. “There’s no way I’d have been given the chance to have this job. The citizens of New Martinsville elected me to this job in 2003 and I’ve ran five times and five times I’ve won. I kept keeping them happy. I’ve made sure the citizens of New Martinsville are well taken care of.”

He wants to continue to be elected to the position.

“A criminal gets 12 jurors, why would I have six?” he added.

The Mayor said council still has to make a decision, but assured the public will be heard and kept informed throughout the process.

“You want your constituents to know what’s going on,” he added. “If you try to hide something and then heaven forbid try to hide something and then get caught shoot what’s your word worth? Know what I mean? You can’t do that.”

Mayor Bohrer also said the next step is for council to decide if they want to pursue changing the charter.

According to the city’s attorney at the meeting, there are several ways they could make a charter amendment.

The first would be a public hearing and making sure the proposed changes are published in the newspaper. If the public files written objects within 10 days of that public hearing, the amendment goes to a public vote.

Or, council could just put it to a public vote. Some council members suggested that if it comes to this, it could be put on next year’s ballot.

Officials were also clear that not all three positions must be made appointable together. City Council can choose to separate them with different amendments to the charter.

Stay with 7News for updates as this issue develops.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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